Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


Ishi represents a form of sentimental folk reductionism. But he can be a teaching tool for the California Indian Genocide, John Sutter also. His mill was where gold was discovered – setting off a frenzied settlement in which Indians were legally enslaved and slaughtered, finally ending a decade after the Emancipation Proclamation. They had already experienced wholesale devastation under Spanish and Mexican colonization. The mission system itself was inhumane and genocidal. It codified enslavement and trafficking of Indians as economically useful and morally purposeful. Mexican administration paid lip service to Indian emancipation but exploited them ruthlessly as peons. The California genocide typifies an expanded understanding of genocide and how it operates in a developmental paradigm. We then turn to a related model of the indigenous experience. Using developmental genocide in a gangland “democracy” and Andrew Woolford’s ontologies of destruction, a 500-year wholesale assault, we champion genocide as generic while including specific modes mediated by economic or civil destruction and challenging the unmediated model – direct mass killing – as the archetypical form. Allied with this, a model mediated by civil war also helps explain genocide in the Americas, including California. Genocide of native peoples operates through a cultural and moral reductionism that allows them to be manipulated (and destroyed) as objects.

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